How to Format Drop-down Lists in Microsoft Excel (6 Steps)

By Emmanuelle Douglas

Data validation lets you create custom drop-down lists in your Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The drop-down lists keep you in control of the data that is entered on your spreadsheet. The information displayed in the drop-down list is specified by the data source in the Data Validation settings. Format the drop-down lists by selecting the displayed information, input messages and error alerts. After confirming the data validation setup, the drop-down list will appear immediately.

Step 1

Open Excel 2010 and select a workbook that will contain the drop-down list. Click the "File" tab and select "Open." Browse your files and select the workbook. Click the "Open" button. The workbook opens.

Step 2

Highlight the range of cells where the drop-down list will be displayed. Select the "Data" tab, then select "Data Validation." The Data Validation dialog box appears.

Step 3

Click the "Settings" tab. Change the "Allow" drop-down list to "List." In the "Source" drop-down box, type "Yes,No,Maybe."

Step 4

Click the "Input Message" tab. The input message will appear as the user uses the drop-down list. Use it to add helpful information. In the "Title" field, type the title of your Input message. Add additional details in the "Input Message" field.

Step 5

Click the "Error Alert" tab. The error alert tab informs the user of data input mistakes when the user manually types the wrong information, instead of using the options from the drop-down list. Select the "Stop" icon in the "Style section. In the "Title" field, type the title of your Error message. Add additional details in the "Error Message" field. Click "OK."

Step 6

Click in one of the fields of the highlighted cells. Notice the drop-down list and input messages that appear.